10. What’s on your bucket list?

Lets be honest it would not be a classic travel gap year if I didn’t have a bucket list would it? Everything from South East Asia is what I am looking forward to the most from my group tour and then everywhere from Australia and New Zealand are the places I am going to build my route around. I will be working at a camp, for Camp America, in upstate New York so these are the places that I want to visit on my time off.

Thailand – Chang Mai Elephant Sanctuary

To begin with this was actually something I was conscious of, as I don’t want to contribute to any kind of animal exploitation, but with further research I am so happy to see that this is an ethical sanctuary that puts the elephants first. We will help to feed, bathe and walk them (with strictly no riding) as they roam freely in their natural environment and for this reason, I cannot wait! Elephants have always fascinated me so the opportunity to get up-close with one is going to be incredible. I apologise in advance for the spam of elephant photos that is about to come your way!

Laos – Kuang Si Waterfalls in Laung Prabang

I would be lying if I said I knew anything about Laos and, if I am being honest, I probably wouldn’t be visiting it if my tour didn’t go there but having looked into it more then I can really see why they added it to the route. Something that is described to have a “fairy-tale feel” is the breath-taking Kaung Si Waterfall and anything that can be associated with a fairy-tale will of course spark my interest! There are also 33 temples in Laung Prabang that I cannot wait to explore and truly indulge myself into their rich spiritual culture.

Vietnam – Cu Chi tunnels in Ho Chi Min and the Hao Lo prison in Hanoi

With an A-Level in history under my belt, in which I did a module on the Vietnam War, I cannot wait to see the facts written in the text books come to life. The Cu Chi tunnels in Ho Chi Min, that were used to smuggle people and supplies during the Vietnam War, will be fascinating as well as the Hao Lo prison in Hanoi, where we will have a chance to learn about the history of communism in Vietnam.

Cambodia – S21 Prison in Phnom Penh and Angkor Wat

Another country with a rich and heart-breaking history is Cambodia. I think visiting the S21 prison in Phnom Penh and seeing the atrocious consequences of the Killing Fields will be an eye-opening and humbling experience. Unlike any of my other birthdays, which have mostly been spent hiding from the rain, for my 23rdbirthday I will be watching the sunrise over Angkor Wat! If that isn’t worthy of a spot on the bucket list then I don’t know what is!

Australia – Great Ocean Road and the Great Barrier Reef

This one, I will not lie, is mostly influenced by the photos I have seen on Instagram but I cannot wait to drive the Great Ocean Road! However thrilling sitting in traffic on the M25 is, I don’t think it will quite compare to the ocean views and open roads that Australia has to offer. I feel very lucky to be alive in a time when there are still living corals in the Great Barrier Reef so that is definitely something I want to see whilst we still have the chance.

New Zealand – Tongariro Crossing hike

I think if there is any place to go on a hike then it has to be New Zealand and I have heard that the Tongariro Crossing is the most popular of them all. The only problem being I can count the amount of times  I have been to the gym this year on one hand. As a result, if this 12 mile hike turns out to be too much for me then I am sure I can find an equally picturesque but less strenuous alternative!

America – Salem, Boston

I have been lucky enough to visit New York twice in my life already so although I am excited to go back it is not at the top of my bucket list. Somewhere that is however is Boston and more specifically Salem.  It wasn’t only the history we learnt in school that fascinated me; I have also always had a keen interest in conspiracy theories and the darker history of the world. I remember reading book after book on the Salem Witch Trials when I was younger so it is fair to say this has been on the list for a while.

Merry Christmas and happy travels!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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2. How much will it cost?

This is a tough question to answer because obviously until I get out there, I don’t know how much I am going to spend. What I have learnt though is that traveling is expensive (and I haven’t even got on the plane yet.)

Now obviously there are cheaper and there are more expensive ways to do everything when it comes to going away so don’t take this as the only price tag on everything but this is going to be a run down on what I have spent so far. I think if you are planning a trip away it is important to establish your main priority. For example, if you want to be able to go away for a long time then budgeting is going to be key and you may have to stay in cheaper places or do less activities as compensation. Alternatively, if you aren’t as bothered with how long you are away then you can always splash out on places you stay or what you go to see/do. I see myself as somewhere in the middle. I want to go for around 3 months but also don’t want to miss out on adventures so will therefore be happy to come home sooner if it means that most of my days out there were jam packed with activities.

1. Tour of Asia

It is no secret that group tours are always more expensive than if you were to make the exact same trip yourself. With the extra cost however comes experience, 24/7 help and the ease of knowing that all your travel and accommodation is sorted. I am going on a 30 day trip around 4 countries in Asia with all travel (excluding flights there and back) and accommodation as well as various activities and meals.

Cost: £1,499.00

2. Flights

I have only booked my flight out to Thailand so far, as I am not quite sure where my travels are going to take me, and as with my tour, I decided to spend a bit more for some extra ease of mind. It is a lot cheaper to get a flight with a stop over but seeing as it is my first big trip away I chose the more expensive direct flight. I am flying with Thai Airways and leaving early January.

Cost: £579

3. Insurance

I think insurance is something that some people easily overlook but it is actually one of the biggest necessities for travel. Yes I can see how it might be viewed as a waste of money, as it is something you don’t actually want to use, but the cost of medical attention or loss of possessions can often be triple the amount of an insurance quote – it is definitely worth it for the peace of mind! I went for platinum cover with a company called Cover for You and added in an excess waiver and extra cover for activities and gadget loss.

Cost: £209

4. Visas

These vary a lot depending on which country you visit and your nationality so these facts and figures may not apply to you. When traveling from the UK for short periods of time, some countries don’t require a Visa (New Zealand, Thailand & Vietnam) therefore won’t cost you anything but others aren’t as simple.

Laos: $35 (purchase at the border)

Cambodia: $30 (purchase at the border)

Australia: £20 service charge (if you want a visa to work whilst in Australia that costs around £400)

5. Injections

Whilst writing this blog post I have come to the conclusion that I have probably gone about everything in the most expensive way  and injections sadly also fit into this category. You can get quite a few injections on the NHS but be sure to book in an appointment 6 – 8 weeks before you go. I forgot to do this so wasn’t able to get time off work or an appointment in time at my GP. As a result I went to Boots to get all mine done, which was easy as you could go on weekends, but also horrendously expensive. I also opted to get all the injections they offered (hepatitis A & B, typhoid and Japanese encephalitis) as a few of the diseases are passed through mosquito bites and I am like candy to those pesky bugs! Be sure to get proper medical advice about the recommended vaccines for where you are going and use your own judgement to weigh up which of the optional ones you want to get.

Cost: roughly £400

6. Belongings

I may have splashed the cash on all the other things on this list but I am saving all the pennies I can on belongings. For all the big items, like my rucksack for example, I have asked for them for christmas and my birthday as a way to keep my own costs down. When it comes to items like clothes and shoes I am just digging out all the old stuff in my closet that I don’t mind getting ruined and only buying essentials like a first aid kit to bring with me. I will give a ball park estimate on how much I think it would all cost to buy yourself from new but there are lots of clever ways to save on belongings.

Cost: £500

What I really want to get through in this post is that there is no official cost for traveling. There are areas some will want to spend more in and others will use as an opportunity to save and that is all totally fine. Seeing as this is my first big trip on my own, I didn’t want to leave much up to chance. In most cases therefore I chose the more expensive options that came with more security. Hopefully this will be a helpful guide if you are thinking of going traveling but aren’t sure just how much it is going to be.

Merry Christmas and happy travels!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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1. Where are you going traveling?

A few weeks ago I announced on my Instagram that from January next year I am trading my Oyster card for my passport and going traveling for 9 months. It is something I have been planning for months and dreaming of for years so I can’t explain how excited I am to say it’s only a few weeks away now. I’ve received a lot of different reactions from people when I tell them I’m jetting off and a whole range of questions from “can I come with?” to “are you crazy?” which has sparked me to put this little travel blog to good use and answer some of those questions.

I know at this time of year the only thing on people’s minds is if a “ring for wine” bell is inappropriate for office secret Santa or where you can hide your box of salted caramel matchsticks so your nan doesn’t eat them all but I thought I would put my own spin on a christmas classic and do the 12 days of travel!

Everyday I will answer one a common question I get as a response to “I am going traveling” and hopefully it might help you if it’s something you’re interested in doing or just give you something to read as your partner tries on their 17th New Year’s Eve outfit possibility!

Today I thought we would begin with my story and the most common questioned asked: Where are you going travelling?

At the age of 22 I have been lucky enough to visit 3/7 of the continents this world has to offer so I thought for my first big journey out there alone I would try to tick off another 2 – Asia and Australia. I am going to be venturing on a group tour of South East Asia, stopping along the way in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. I chose to go on a group tour instead of venturing it alone for the simple reason of I found it all quite intimidating. Not only are they new countries to me, they are totally new cultures, weathers, cuisines and it all felt a but too much to face solo. Being in a group will allow me to experience everything but with a safety net of having my journeys and accommodation already sorted. I know that I won’t have much time in each town but I am seeing this trip as my taster session to then return in future years and delve deeper into places that I don’t want to leave behind.

Now technically this is where the first section of my trip ends as I have nothing else booked in after my group trip ends. That however is all part of the grand plan. I have never been away from home on my own for longer than a couple of weeks so I might finish my month off and feel like it is time to go back or I might have come down with a strong case of the travel bug and never want to go home. I just don’t know! That is why I have left it open to see who I meet, how I feel and just giving myself the total freedom to do whatever feels right for me. If I do have the desire to continue then I have my heart set on catching a flight over to explore the beautiful lands of Australia and New Zealand. Even though I have never been to either of these countries I feel much more confident doing them on my own as they speak English and have a culture that, I might naively be assuming, echoes that of what we have here in England. These familiarities make the task of exploring somewhere new thousands of miles away from home on my own a lot less daunting and a lot more exciting! My vague plan is to grab a greyhound bus ticket, stay in hostels and hopefully make some new friends along the way to continue my adventure with.

When the time comes that I have either run out of energy, desire or money (most likely the latter) then I will catch a flight back home. As the last part of my trip is so vague I have no real idea of when this will be but I have predicted around April/May giving me just enough time to get my visa sorted for my second trip. Camp America!

I think it has been roughly 4 years now that I have said I am going to apply for a summer at Camp America but this is finally the year that I have made it happen. I will be uploading another post a bit later on about the whole application process, but I am thrilled that it all paid off and I will spending next summer in the state of New York singing camp fire songs, teaching photography and living my best parent-trap-esk camp counsellor life! If that wasn’t enough, the visa allows another month of travel in America so I will be sure to put that to good use and potentially do a trip down the East Coast. As with my earlier trip I am leaving it all up in the air now and waiting to see who I meet and what other plans just fall into place.

If all goes to plan, then in October next year I will be back in my own bed reminiscing over the endless memories I have made all over the world and no doubt planning my next trip away. But for now, that is day 1 of my 12 days of travel done!

Merry Christmas and happy travels!

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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Graduating uni and my plans for the future…

It is scary to think about but in a months time I will be a university graduate with a BA Hons in Graphic Design (ahhhh!!). Even though I have uploaded a couple of posts in the past about university in general (10 tips on surviving university or University room tour) I realised I’ve never really written about my personal experience or what my intentions have been after graduating.  Seeing as I’m down to my final few days as a student I reckoned now would be the perfect time for this post.

My University Experience 

I decided to study graphic design at uni because it was something I had always had a keen interest in but didn’t feel confident enough to try and break straight into the industry. After multiple open days and interviews I set my heart on Norwich University of the Arts because the course seemed to be amazing and I loved the idea of being surrounded by creatively driven people. I absolutely loved my first year of university and found the course to be so interesting and inspiring but, if I’m honest, it seemed to go downhill once second year began. First our amount of contact hours dropped to about 5 hours a week and we no longer had workshops or trips out of uni. Then everyones grades seemed to drop by at least 10%, bit of a shock when you think you’re doing well! The most annoying thing however was it felt as if the tutors became biased towards certain students whose style of work they liked and more opportunities were often sent their way. Guess thats the problem with an art degree where there isn’t a right or wrong answer and its all down to personal preference.

As far as the social side of uni goes it was definitely a rollercoaster! In first year I lived in student accommodation with 10 others.  I guess there was bound to be a certain element of drama when you stick a random group of 18 year olds in a flat together. Although I am still close with 8/10 of them I would say it wasn’t until my third year that I finally felt settled and with a solid group of friends around me. Looking back I do wish that I went to a larger university that had more societies to offer and, therefore, more opportunities to meet people but I wouldn’t change the bunch of pals I have now for the world.

I think the whole experience of going to university has really helped me to develop as a person, however cliche that sounds. It’s made me grow up and really taught me a lot about what I want to get from life. I’ve learnt the importance of friends and loyalty but equally not to be afraid to cut someone out my life who is bringing me more pain than joy. It has also provided me with some of the funniest memories to look back on (I will leave some photos below of my favourite times). Overall I have really enjoyed my time at uni, even if there are aspects of it I would liked to have changed, and I know that the day I have to pack my bags and finally leave is going to be a really difficult one!

My Future Plans

Apart from knowing that I want to be a graphic designer I have never really had a clear set path of what I wanted to do once I graduate. The closer it gets however I have decided that I am not ready to start my 9-5 office life just yet and would like to take the next year out to travel whilst I can. So far my plans are to work and save up until February then jet off to New Zealand and Bali for a couple of months. I will then come back home and carry on working to get some more money before then going out to America to spend a summer working at a camp. I say this all confidently as if I actually have everything booked (hahaha I wish) but still its nice to get ideas out there into the universe. For my travels across the world in February I want to go away with an arranged group/tour to begin with just to settle me in and form some friendships – if anyone has any recommendations for companies that provide this please leave them in the comments!

If however the traveling doesn’t work out, or I change my mind and want to go straight to working life, I think my plan will be to apply for as many internships and jobs in the graphic design industry as I can and hope that someone will take me on (fingers crossed all round please.) It is quite daunting to think that I will soon be kicking off my career but at the same time it’s in a field that I love and I am excited to finally be able to work on real life briefs! I will also of course try to keep up my blogging as much as I can and I hope this little blog will grow and adapt along with me as the next chapter begins….(I will leave this however on my favourite memory from uni, our scooby doo gang)

IMG_2566

Go and grab another cuppa on me, Em x

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